Astrophysics BSc (Honours) 2024 entry

The BSc in Astrophysics allows you to embark on a guided exploration of the science of the Universe, from our solar system to black holes and from extrasolar planets to galaxy clusters. You will develop core physics, mathematics, and computational skills to allow you to model these systems and to analyse complicated data sets. Students will be able to use some of the telescopes at the University Observatory, which contains the largest operational optical telescope in the UK. 

The degree is approximately half core physics and maths, and approximately half astrophysics. It gives you competencies that are useful in a wide range of careers in physics-based industry, in further study and research in astrophysics, in analysing 'big data', and more generally in areas such as finance and management.   


All St Andrews Physics and Astronomy degree programmes are accredited by the Institute of Physics for the UK and Ireland. 

UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2028
Four years full time
School of Physics and Astronomy
Base of the 0.94m Gregory Telescope in the University Observatory
“I really enjoyed learning how to code with real-world data from current space missions and thereby learning astrophysics through my own exploration. I also found learning more about the intersections of astrophysics with other subjects – like astrobiology and space law – to be incredibly insightful.”
Girl with blond hair in front of the sea
- Munich, Germany

Entry requirements

The University offers different entry requirements, depending on your background. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.

  • Standard entry grades:
    AAAA, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    AAAB, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
    Gateway entry grades:
    Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades, but meet the University's contextual criteria, may be interested in one of the University’s Gateway programmes.
  • Standard entry grades:
    AAA, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    AAB, including A in both: Mathematics and Physics.
  • Standard entry grades:
    38 (HL 6,6,6), including HL6 in both Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL5 in both Mathematics and Physics.

General entry requirements

All applicants must have attained the following qualifications, or equivalent, in addition to the specific entry requirements for individual programmes.

  • SQA National 5 (B) in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing science
    • Geography
    • Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.
  • GCSE (5) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing Science
    • Geography
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.

Other qualifications

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes. Please see our entry requirements for more information.

More information on how to apply via other entry routes or accreditation of prior learning and experience can be found on the University’s entry requirements web page.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

Students must have studied both Physics and Mathematics at SQA Highers, GCE A-Levels, or equivalent. Preference will be given to candidates offering strong science qualifications.

Alternative study options

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the following:

Other BSc programmes

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the BSc in Physics.

Direct entry to second year

Well-qualified school and college leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year. This allows them to complete their degree programme in three years instead of four. Find out more about direct entry to second year for Astrophysics BSc.

Integrated Masters

It is possible to take Astrophysics as a five-year Integrated Masters course, allowing you to graduate with a Master in Physics. Direct entry into second year for an Integrated Masters is also possible, allowing you to complete an Integrated Masters degree programme in four years instead of five. Students interested in this course may also be interested in the Integrated Masters course in  Physics. 

Gateway programmes

The Physics and Astronomy Gateway provides an alternative entry route, with built-in additional support, for Scottish students who meet some or all of the University's widening participation criteria. 

Study abroad

Physics and astronomy students can apply to participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad website.

International applicants

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. Find out more about approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The BSc in Astrophysics is a four-year course (three years for those taking direct entry to second year) run by the School of Physics and Astronomy. During your degree, you will explore the science of the Universe, from extrasolar planets to cosmology. This course is a physics course with a specialism in astrophysics. The astrophysics component of the course makes good use of the mathematics and physics developed in other modules. 

In the first two years of your studies, you will also study modules from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, as mathematics is the language of physics. Depending on how many mathematics modules you choose to do, you may be able to choose modules in other subjects such as chemistry, computer science, philosophy, or many other subjects from across the University. The flexible nature of the degree programmes at St Andrews means that by appropriate choice of modules in first and second year, you may be able to change your final degree topic during your course. Find out more about how academic years are organised.

In the final two years of the course, you normally take modules in physics and astrophysics.  

Final-year students also carry out a major project, which takes one-quarter of their time for the year. This is often carried out in close cooperation with one of the School’s research groups, and may be observational, computational, or theoretical in nature.

The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure web page.


In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours), you will take the required modules in astrophysics alongside modules in physics and mathematics. 

Typically, you will take two to three modules per semester during your first two years, and four to five modules per semester during your third and fourth years (known as Honours). 

Students take the following compulsory modules in their first year: 

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics 1: covers the structure and evolution of the Sun and other stars, planet formation, star-formation, violent stellar objects, black holes, and the large scale structure of the Universe. 
  • Physics 1A: covers the core elements of mechanics, waves and optics, laboratory work, and the physical properties of matter. 
  • Physics 1B: covers an introduction to quantum physics, the mechanics of rotation and gravity, lasers, and laboratory skills.  
  • Mathematics: introduces the ideas and techniques required for further study of mathematics or applications to other sciences. 

Students take the following compulsory modules in their second year: 

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics 2: discusses recent developments in the subject including observational techniques, the structure and evolution of stars, exoplanetary science and galactic astronomy. 
  • Physics 2A: covers mechanics, special relativity, oscillations, thermal physics, and laboratory skills. 
  • Physics 2B: covers quantum physics, electricity, magnetism and classical waves, and includes laboratory skills. 
  • Linear Mathematics: introduces the theory of vector spaces, linear independence, linear transformations and diagonalisation. 
  • Multivariate Calculus: extends the techniques of calculus in a single variable to the setting of real functions of several variables. 

In third and fourth years, you will further develop your knowledge and skills in astrophysics and physics in some or all of the following topics: 

  • atomic, nuclear, and particle physics 
  • computational astrophysics 
  • electromagnetism 
  • extragalactic astronomy 
  • observational astrophysics 
  • quantum mechanics 
  • the physics of nebulae and stars 
  • thermal and statistical physics. 

In your third year, you will take ‘Transferable Skills for Physicists’ which provides training and practice in advanced written and oral communication skills, problem solving and teamwork. 

In fourth year, students undertake a major project, which is usually carried out in close collaboration with one of the School’s research groups. This provides a great chance to explore astrophysics, and on occasion can lead to a paper in a refereed international scientific journal. 

The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules appropriate to the programme for the current academic year can be found in the programme requirements.


Astrophysics and physics modules are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and laboratory work. 

In both first and second year, each module typically consists of four or five lectures per week (15 to 150 students), along with one problem-solving workshop, one small group tutorial (7 to 15 students), and 2.5 hours in the teaching laboratory. 

At Honours level, lecture-based modules typically have three lectures a week (6 to 140 students). Some modules also have small-group tutorials (5 to 11 students). 'Computational Astrophysics' and 'Observational Astrophysics' are examples of modules that are more directly practical, with each of these running two afternoons a week for a semester each. 

In your final semester, you will spend about 20 hours per week focusing solely on your final year project. 

When not attending lectures, tutorials and labs, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve: 

  • working on individual and group projects 
  • undertaking research in the library or online 
  • preparing for laboratory work 
  • preparing coursework assignments and presentations 
  • preparing for examinations. 

During first and second year, most modules are assessed by a mix of coursework and written examinations. In Honours years, assessment depends on the nature of the specific module. Most modules give a higher weighting to written examinations, but some are assessed solely through coursework. 

Coursework may include: 

  • astronomical observations 
  • computational work 
  • laboratory work 
  • tutorial problem sets 
  • literature research 
  • presentations 
  • written work 
  • classroom tests. 

Most examinations are held at the end of the semester during a dedicated exam diet, and revision time is provided beforehand. 

The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework within a time specified for the assignment, in some cases two days, in some cases two weeks. Feedback is given with a view to improving your performance in the future. 

Undergraduates on the BSc in Astrophysics can find information on progressing through the degree in the Astrophysics programme requirements

Undergraduates at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honours and in the relevant programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.

You will be taught by an experienced teaching team. Some of these people have specialist expertise and knowledge in astrophysics, others have expertise and knowledge in other areas of physics. You will be able to have significant interaction with the staff of the School. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of laboratory classes and tutorials under the supervision of the module leader. 

You can find contact information for all astrophysics staff on the School of Physics and Astronomy website. 

The University’s Student Services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long-term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities web page.



England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Channel Islands, Isle of Man

EU and overseas

More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page.

Additional costs

There are no additional fees for labs and lab equipment in the School. Most students in the 'Transferable Skills for Physicists' module are normally expected to attend the residential conference weekend in the Highlands, and are asked to make a contribution (currently £40) towards the costs of the weekend. 

In line with University policy, the School expects its students to purchase one or two textbooks as part of their study. 

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.


At the end of the degree, graduates should  be equipped with the following skills that are valued in a wide range of occupations: 

  • the ability to determine what information is needed to solve a problem, and a knowledge of where to find or generate such information 
  • applicable mathematical and computational techniques and where to use them 
  • knowledge and understanding of fundamental physical laws and principles 
  • the ability to analyse data and evaluate the level of uncertainty in results 
  • skills to identify relevant principles and laws of physics when dealing with problems 
  • communication skills including the ability to present complex information clearly and concisely. 

Graduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy have found employment in fields including: 

  • astrophysics research and outreach
  • banking and commerce 
  • biophysics 
  • computing 
  • financial services 
  • geophysics 
  • meteorology 
  • patents 
  • research and development in industry and in government agencies 
    software development. 

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Undergraduate visiting days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online or in-person visiting days.

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 3111
School of Physics and Astronomy
North Haugh
University of St Andrews
St Andrews
KY16 9SS

School of Physics and Astronomy website

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